Sun | May 19, 2024

Security concerns about WPM’s plan to collect garbage at nights

Published:Thursday | January 5, 2023 | 12:40 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Bishop Oniel Russell, president of the Cooke Street Citizens Association.
Bishop Oniel Russell, president of the Cooke Street Citizens Association.


The leader of one community organisation is urging the National Solid Waste Management Authority’s western arm to rethink plans to extend its night collection to structured communities, citing safety concerns.

“It is too dangerous and I would encourage Western Parks and Market (WPM) to reconsider that option because people’s lives will be at risk,” Bishop Oneil Russell, president of the Cooke Street Citizens Association in Savanna-la-Mar, said on Tuesday.

“I cannot encourage it; it’s dangerous and crime has to be under control for them to effectively do that,” he told The Gleaner in reaction to the disclosure.

Last week, Dramaine Jones, acting regional operations manager at WPM, revealed that the organisation is recruiting staff to replace those who have resigned and build out a team that will focus on collecting garbage at nights.

“We still have a night shift that runs in downtown Montego Bay, but we want to ensure that we do more night shifts in structured communities,” Jones told The Gleaner.

He argued that this could ease the pressure on the vehicles during the daytime and have fewer trucks operating in peak traffic, therefore, allowing motorists and commuters to travel more freely, especially in the commercial towns of Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland.

Russell argued that with the level of crime across Jamaica, the agency should not be exposing staff to further danger by clearing garbage at nights.

Westmoreland is among several parishes currently under a state of emergency in response to high levels of crime.

“While they say ‘structured communities’, there is nowhere in Jamaica at this time that is safe ... nowhere,” Russell stressed, suggesting that if WPM intends to moves forward with the plan, there should be police protection for the workers.

“Without any form of security for these workers going into communities to collect garbage on the road in the hours (night), I can’t support it,” he added.

Responding to the security concerns raised by Russell, Jones said night collection in structured communities has been done before, especially when there were only 25 drivers and 13 trucks, up to December last year.

“We have a list (of communities) and it is something that we intend on liaising with the police because the crime level we had a few months ago is not the same now. It can possibly work with the proper due diligence, involving the police,” Jones said.

He further highlighted that the collection of garbage at night, up to last November, was ongoing in sections of Westmoreland, including the Llandilo Housing Scheme, and Shrewsbury Housing Scheme. In St James, communities such as Ocean Ridge, Estuary Housing Scheme, Norwood Gardens, Ironshore, Coral Gardens, West Village and Bogue Village have had night garbage collection.

Meanwhile, the leaders of community-based groups in Salt Spring and Norwood, St James, welcomed the proposal.

“It is a welcome initiative. The garbage collection is a nightmare in this area,” said Dalton Spence, president of the Norwood Community Development Committee (CDC). “With that, we would be the happiest set of people in this country.”

However, he said there is a need for the WPM to devise a sustainable collection plan to handle bulky waste because the community has become a preferred place for people to dispose of their old gas stoves, refrigerators, and mattresses, instead of taking them to the Retirement landfill.

Donna Wedderburn, acting president of the Salt Spring CDC, said that residents are looking forward to the rollout of WPM’s night collection, but cautioned against it if a workable schedule is not developed.

“Anything to do with the timely collection of garbage in our community is welcomed by us, therefore, adding collection at night to the cycle is a good idea,” Wedderburn said.

“My only drawback is some people don’t put their garbage outside until they know that the truck is coming,” he continued. “As such, they would have to tell us when they are coming so that the residents can put out their garbage.”